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Memorial Day Closure

TCC will be closed Monday, May 27, in observance of the Memorial Day holiday.

TCC alum lands dream job at NASA

Kyle Epperly is a Tidewater Community College alum twice over. He earned his first associate degree in Automotive Technology in 2006. For the last 12 years, he worked at Hall Automotive as a master technician.

Kyle came to TCC once again looking for a new career. He wanted work that was less physically demanding, more challenging and on the cutting-edge of technology.

He found TCC’s Mechatronics degree online and started a new journey.

While at TCC, Kyle learned about an internship opportunity at NASA Langley. He applied and began working there in January of 2023. He is now an engineering technician apprentice and working on testing structures for spacecraft.

Mechatronics is suited for students like Kyle with a passion for technology who enjoy hands-on work. He said, “The transition from being an automotive technician to working in mechatronics has been easy. I’m still doing what I’ve always loved which is working with my hands and technology.”

Mechatronics students spend about half the time in classroom instruction and the rest in state-of-the-art laboratories. Kyle said, “What I liked most about TCC is that it gave me the skills that I actually use in my job now. Every class was hands-on which really helped me understand the material. You don’t just learn theory but get to see how the systems really work.”

The Associate of Applied Science in Mechatronics covers motor controls, hydraulics, computer programming, pneumatics, programmable logic controllers and more. The broad industry allows students to use the degree to specialize in something they love or do something different each day.

Kyle is part of the Materials and Structures Experiment branch where he performs tests to ensure that materials measure up to NASA’s durability expectations.

The mechatronics industry is constantly growing and expanding which provides people the opportunity to continually increase their knowledge in the field. There are plenty of advanced manufacturing firms in Hampton Roads that provide graduates with ample job prospects. According to the Department of Labor Job Outlook, mechatronics technicians earn a median salary of $60,360 per year or about $29 per hour.

Kyle is confident he made the right decision to return to school and pursue this career. He said, “I am grateful that my family was so supportive and pushed me to find the time to pursue this degree while still working a full-time job. It was worth all the hard work.”

For more information regarding Mechatronics at TCC, contact Thomas Stout at or call TCC’s Virtual Student Support Team at 757-822-1111.

Internship leads to full-time work for TCC student

Ben White began losing his sight when he was 27. He is now totally blind and pursuing an associate degree in Human Services at Tidewater Community College.

He found a passion to serve others with disabilities when he was struggling to find work during the pandemic. “Once I realized that many jobs were not accessible and doors were not opening for me, I took a leap of faith and went back to school,” he said.

Ben began attending workshops through the state and local Offices of Visual Impairment. That’s when he saw others in need and wanted to help. “There were so many people like me, who wanted to be productive, but were unsure about how to make their way in life,” he said.

Ben chose Human Services because it prepares him for a career serving those in need. He is learning basic counseling skills, various functions of crisis intervention, the management principles of human and social service, and developing the skills needed to address the needs of clients.

“I never thought I’d go to college as I was a high school dropout and got my GED,” Ben said. “Training to help the underserved, abused, those dealing with childhood trauma, the visually impaired and so many others, makes me excited to get up and start each day.”

Ben is now in his third semester at TCC and has a 3.5 GPA. He is on the Dean’s List and a member of Phi Theta Kappa, the honor society for two-year schools.

While at TCC, Ben received support from the college’s Open Door Project which provides support for first-generation college students. “The faculty and staff of Open Door have been so much a part of my success,” he said. “They became my village and made me feel comfortable where I was, motivated me to move forward and picked me up when I’m down.”

Ben also received support from the college’s Office of Educational Accessibility. Because of his visual impairment, he was given extra time on exams and a screen reader for use in class and for assignments.

Part of Ben’s program at TCC included an internship in a local nonprofit. That experience turned into full-time work and now Ben is an independent living coordinator at the Independence Center. “My work helps me bridge the gap and teach people the skills they need to live independently. It is the most rewarding work I’ve ever done,” he said.

Ben remembers growing up in one of the poorest, most violent neighborhoods in New York City. “I was always told that I wasn’t going to make it past age 18. For me to reinvent myself at 49, well that’s a success story and TCC has a lot to do with it.”

The father of two children, Ben, says he is proud to set an example for them. “TCC gave me the foundation and the tools to be where I am today. At first, I didn’t think I was going to make it. Thankfully, my Open Door advisors taught me how to balance everything and kept me going.”

In his free time, Ben likes to cook up a storm. His favorite food is spicy with a Caribbean flair.

TCC selected as an education partner for Amazon’s Career Choice Program

Tidewater Community College has been selected as an education partner for Amazon’s Career Choice program, providing Amazon’s hourly employees access to all of TCC’s career and technical programs, as well as the college’s transfer programs that enable students to a build solid academic foundation and save on the cost of college.

TCC President Marcia Conston says, “Tidewater Community College is proud to partner with Amazon’s Career Choice, providing more higher education opportunities for Amazon’s growing workforce in Hampton Roads.” She added, “TCC offers multiple, flexible pathways for students to learn while working full, or part-time. This partnership with Amazon is ideal for students who want to work for an organization that invests in their education and in their futures.”

TCC is one of the largest providers of higher education in the state of Virginia. The college has campuses in Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Virginia Beach, as well as the Regional Automotive Center, the Center for Workforce Solutions and the Visual Arts and Design Center which is opening soon.

Amazon’s Career Choice program is an educational benefit that empowers employees to learn new skills for career success at Amazon or elsewhere. The program meets individual learners where they are on their education journey through a variety of education and upskilling opportunities including pre-paid college tuition, industry certifications designed to lead to in-demand jobs, and foundational skills such as English language proficiency, high school diplomas and GEDs.

Amazon Fulfillment Center in Suffolk, Virginia.

Amazon’s Suffolk location is home to around 2,500 employees who have an opportunity to take part in Amazon’s Career Choice program. The 3.8 million-square-foot facility is automated with hundreds of robots that help the workers push out the majority of Amazon packages that are delivered in Hampton Roads. 

Amazon’s Career Choice program has a rigorous selection process for third-party partner educators, choosing partners that are focused on helping employees through their education programs, assisting them with job placements, and overall offering education that leads to career success. 

“We’re looking forward to Tidewater Community College coming on board as an education partner for Career Choice, adding to the hundreds of best-in-class offerings available to our employees,” said Tammy Thieman, Global Program Lead of Amazon’s Career Choice program. “We’re committed to empowering our employees by providing them access to the education and training they need to grow their careers, whether that’s with us or elsewhere.”

Skilled Trades Academy expanding to offer more training options for students

A celebratory event marked the start of the expansion of Tidewater Community College’s Skilled Trades Academy (STA) in Portsmouth.

The expansion will provide an additional 12,000 square feet of space for workforce training.

The STA opened in 2019 and is currently a 20,000-square-foot academy, located at 3303 Airline Blvd. It is one of the largest trade academies run by a community college on the East Coast and the only one of its kind in Virginia. It provides short-term workforce training for in-demand careers in construction, maritime trades and more.

Mayor Shannon Glover with President Marcia Conston.

“We are growing because we want to address our workforce needs in the community,” said TCC President Marcia Conston. “Students come here with no background in the skilled trades and leave with skills that enable them to provide for their families long term.”

TCC student Jacob Talmage came to the STA to train for a new career. “I saw the welding program on TCC’s website, decided to give it a try, and now I’m working full-time as a welder in the maritime industry,” he said.

The program included a ceremonial wall demolition with speakers using sledgehammers to knock it down!

The expansion of the facility comes at a time when 79 percent of Hampton Roads businesses express concerns about training employees.

Portsmouth Mayor Shannon Glover shared his enthusiasm for the expansion of the academy. “Thank you TCC team for direct action to meet the demand for skilled workers in our region,” Mayor Glover said. “We know that as we give people a future, we are saving their lives.”

The current trades offered at the academy are marine coating, pipefitting, pipe laying, welding, carpentry, roofing, sheet metal, wind energy and electric vehicle repair. The expansion will increase program capacity in these offerings by 63 percent.

In addition, the expansion will increase program offerings by 33 percent. New programs include building maintenance, heavy equipment operator, logistics, shipfitter, electrical and HVAC.

The event was sponsored by Elizabeth River Crossings OpCo (ERC) and Virginia Ship Repair Association (VSRA) and TCC’s Educational Foundation.

Event speakers included Tamara Williams, President Marcia Conston, Anna Bonnett, Delceno Miles, Mayor Glover and student Jacob Talmage

ERC Chief Executive Officer Anna Bonnet reflected on their commitment to supporting student success and now expanding that commitment to grow the academy. “We are proud to provide significant financial support for this expansion project,” she said. “As an infrastructure company that connects our cities through tunnels and roads, we are pleased to now connect our region’s workforce to higher-paying, more stable careers.”

TCC Educational Foundation board member Fred Pasquine noted that the STA is a place where people are able to work with their hands and their minds. Pasquine also serves on the VSRA advisory board, giving him a unique perspective on student success. “TCC is equipped to help students succeed with training opportunities,” Pasquine said. “But they can’t do it alone. It takes industry engagement to meet the needs of our community.”

TCC students with Talmage (left).

To date, 96 percent of students who are certified in training programs through the STA are hired by regional employers. They are career-ready and have the in-demand trade skills, as well as the soft skills needed to succeed on the job.

New Child Development Centers opening at TCC Campuses

Tidewater Community College values quality education for both you and your children, which is why new TCC Child Development Centers will be opening on the Portsmouth and Norfolk Campuses starting Fall Semester 2023. These centers will provide quality care and developmental learning for children of TCC students, helping them thrive while their parents pursue higher education. Full-time students with a FAFSA on file with the Financial Aid office are eligible to apply for child care scholarships.

The first center will open on the Portsmouth Campus in mid-August followed by a second location on the Norfolk Campus opening in January 2024. The Child Development Centers will be staffed by TCC’s Early Childhood Development program alumni and students. They will focus on teaching children school readiness and important skills through play. 

Ciera Streeter, director of TCC’s Childhood Development Centers, urges all students with children ages 3-5 to apply for this opportunity. She said, “Parents will be able to attend in-person classes, complete internships or program requirements and feel relief from financial barriers, all while their children receive high-quality care.”

TCC Child Development Center services are available to any currently enrolled TCC student in need of child care. In addition, students can use financial aid to cover child care costs. Students can authorize TCC to charge the cost of child care services to their remaining financial aid, after the cost of tuition, fees and any bookstore charges have been deducted.

Thanks to a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, TCC is also able to offer the Child Care Access Means Parents (CCAMPIS) in School scholarships. Students with children and financial needs can receive reduced or no-cost child care. To learn more and apply, visit here. The scholarship will be open for applications between June 15, 2023 – Aug. 25, 2023.

Each center will provide safe, convenient and consistent child care five days a week. Center hours are Monday – Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. for children 3 to 5 years of age, with after-school and drop-in care available for children up to 12 years of age.

The TCC Child Development Centers are in the following locations:

  • Norfolk Campus, Norfolk Student Center, TCC Child Development Center, Room 213
  • Portsmouth Campus, Portsmouth Student Center, TCC Child Development Center, E101

To learn more about child care at TCC and to register your child, visit here. For more information, contact Streeter at or by calling 757-822-1099.

For information about TCC’s CCAMPIS scholarship, please contact LaShell Currie, Childcare Provider liaison by emailing or calling 757-822-1796.

Learn about everything TCC offers at Open House on June 3

Find your future at Tidewater Community College. Learn about TCC’s programs, including information technology, engineering, culinary arts, health sciences, maritime technologies and the many other potential career paths and transfer opportunities the college offers. 

Take the next step by visiting TCC’s Open House on June 3, from 9 a.m. to noon, at the Norfolk and Chesapeake Campuses. Registration is not required, but recommended and can be done by visiting here

Visit our website for a complete listing of programs. There is plenty of time to enroll for fall classes, which begin on Aug. 21. 

All are invited, especially: 

  • 2023 high school graduates and their families; 
  • adults who want to start or finish a degree, learn a new field, or advance in their careers; 
  • active-duty military and veterans, their spouses and dependents. 

You will be able to apply to TCC; learn about financial aid, grants and scholarships; explore academic options; tour campuses; and learn about campus life at all locations. 

If you have an eye on a four-year college, TCC can help get you there, too. Transfer agreements allow a student to complete the first two years of a bachelor’s degree at TCC and gain guaranteed admission to most Virginia colleges and universities. 

Locations for TCC’s Open House are: 

  • Chesapeake Campus: Student Center 
  • Norfolk Campus: Student Center 

Accommodation requests related to a disability should be made to the Office of Educational Accessibility by emailing or calling 757-822-7751. 

For more information, call 757-822-1111 or email or visit this site

New TCC-ODU Monarch Ready program creates pathway to success

A new agreement between Tidewater Community College (TCC) and Old Dominion University (ODU) provides students with a new path to higher education. The new TCC-ODU Monarch Ready program was created to increase student success in Hampton Roads.

The program offers students who need additional collegiate preparation prior to enrolling at ODU a chance to excel at TCC and guarantees their admission to ODU upon the completion of at least 24-credits at TCC with at least a 2.5 GPA. Students can continue at ODU and participate in TCC and ODU’s established reverse-transfer program, followed by auditing for degree completion at TCC after they become students at ODU.

“The Monarch Ready program is another excellent opportunity for Old Dominion University and Tidewater Community College to continue in partnerships,” said Dr. Marcia Conston, TCC President.  “This program will benefit students who are seeking to enroll in college. TCC is excited to provide 24-credits of academic preparation for students who will transfer seamlessly to ODU.  I extend many thanks to Dr. Hemphill for his continued focus on student success.”

Students who participate in the TCC-ODU Monarch Ready program receive joint orientation into the program, as well as specialized, personalized assistance via academic advisors and academic success mentors. Individualized co-advising and access to on-campus support are also available. In addition, Career Development Services, Military Connection Centers, as well as the Student Resource and Empowerment Center and the Center for Military and Veterans Education are available. Athletic events, Transfer Tuesday, financial literacy workshops, faculty spotlights and other events and services make for a comprehensive experience.

“Through the Monarch Ready partnership with Tidewater Community College, Old Dominion University is committed to building a pathway for students to succeed. This program will positively impact the social mobility of students across Hampton Roads,” said President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D. “I commend the team at ODU and TCC for their diligence in creating a sustainable framework to help students achieve their goals.”

Students who are interested in the TCC-ODU Monarch Ready program can receive information directly from TCC and ODU. To learn more about the agreement visit:

TCC celebrates more than 1,800 grads during May Commencement

There was a celebratory feel during Tidewater Community College’s 76th Commencement exercises as keynote speaker Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears led graduates to say together, “I did it! I did it! I did it!”

Earle-Sears, a TCC alumna, shared a message of encouragement with graduates, as she knows what it’s like to walk in their shoes. “Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined from where I sat as a student graduating from TCC that one day I would be before you as second in command in the former capital of the Confederate states. Here I am.”

Family and friends gathered to celebrate more than 1,800 graduates at Chartway Arena on the campus of Old Dominion University. The evening graduation on May 8 was presided over by President Marcia Conston.

During the Lt. Governor’s address, she recalled her father’s early days in America. “My father arrived 17 days before Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his ‘I have a dream speech.’ My dad had $1.75 in his pocket and he worked hard and used that money to get an education because he knew the doors would open as Dr. King said.”

Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears was the keynote speaker at TCC’s May Commencement.

She went on to tell graduates that their newfound knowledge will become part of our narrative and highlight that Virginia is a great place to live, work and raise a family.

“Here you are today. Our country needs you to do well. We in America are not on this planet by ourselves. There are countries that mean us harm,” she said. “While America is not perfect. She is the best we’ve got. So, we are not going to burn our own house down. No! We have a saying in church in fact ‘I may not be what I’m supposed to be, but I’m not what I use to be.’ And that’s America. In fits and starts she is getting there.”

Earle-Sears added, “I’m so honored to be here to celebrate what you have accomplished. God bless you and God bless our great Commonwealth of Virginia.”

Student Speaker Jacob Ramirez.

The speaker for the graduates, Jacob Ramirez, 21, completed an Associate of Science in Engineering and is transferring to Virginia Tech where he will study computer engineering. A 2021 graduate of Salem High School, Ramirez wanted to stay close to home for college.

Ramirez said, “At TCC I’ve met and interacted with all kinds of people, each one with their own story to tell. I’ve learned from those experiences. And also learned the value of taking the time to get to know people wherever you are.”

He added, “Our time at TCC is just the first stop. We have transfer students going away to colleges, people going into the workforce and students who have already started their careers and families and returning to pursue degrees. Congratulations class of 2023. We’ve each taken a separate journey to get to where we are. And from here we can go anywhere!”

Ramirez participated in the STEM and Engineering Clubs while at TCC, completing many projects with classmates. He gained close friends and three from his core group will head to Tech with him in the fall.

The ceremony continued as families and friends cheered and snapped photos. Graduates crossed the stage and joined a TCC alumni network of 100,000 and counting.

If you missed graduation, you can watch the TCC livestream.

Summer programs help high school grads prepare for next steps

Tidewater Community College has been awarded a Title III grant to provide summer programs for recent high school graduates of Norfolk and Portsmouth Public Schools.

The college has space for fifty students in each of the two programs being offered by TCC. High school graduates will spend two weeks on TCC’s Norfolk and Portsmouth Campuses and prepare for their next steps to college and careers.

The Excellence Institute on Norfolk Campus will be held July 24 – Aug. 4. The Summer Bridge program on Portsmouth Campus will be offered August 7-17. The full-day programs include catered breakfasts lunches daily.

The Excellence Institute on the Norfolk Campus is a retention tool designed to increase academic and professional self-efficacy through environmental and experiential learning opportunities. Self-efficacy is a pivotal key to success. The Institute is designed for students who desire support in cultivating a successful mindset and a plan for the life they want.  

“It only takes one decision to change the trajectory of a student’s academic and professional career,” said Khadijah Peak-Brown, TCC’s Connect2TCC coordinator on the Norfolk Campus. “Let this be one of those good decisions. It is my firm belief that joining the Excellence Institute this summer will catapult students’ academic and professional efficacy.”

Excellence Institute program benefits include:

  • Professional profile development, which includes a professional photoshoot, resume writing, LinkedIn profile and interview preparation.
  • Help with navigating the transition from high school with college and career readiness training.
  • Exclusive individualized networking opportunities that match students’ aspirations. 
  • Curated experiences to boost students’ self-efficacy.
  • Interactive sessions to help with selecting career paths and majors.
  • Support with the FAFSA, TCC application process and course selection.
  • Personal development that includes financial literacy, time management, self-regulation and dynamic learning style development.
Khadijah Peak-Brown (left) with students from the Excellence Institute in 2022.

Upon completion of the Excellence Institute, students who choose to attend TCC will have access to two years of on-demand, 1-on-1 Success Coaching to continue cultivating the academic and professional work they started. “If they come here, my goal is to keep them here and support them for the next two years. It will be an honor to join the Institute scholars on that journey,” says Khadijah Peak-Brown.   

To learn more about the Excellence Institute and to apply, visit here.

The Summer Bridge program is for students who are nervous about attending college, want help succeeding in college and wish they had a personal mentor.

“This new program aims to increase the success, college retention and graduation rates of Portsmouth High School students,” said Jabari Colon, Connect2TCC coordinator on Portsmouth Campus. “During a pre-college program, participants engage in evidence-based intensive psychosocial and personal development programming. Participating students will build knowledge and skills to increase their individual and cultural strengths and improve family relationships.”

Summer Bridge program benefits include:

  • Connection with a personal mentor.
  • Learn skills that will help students get the jobs they really want.
  • Engage in group sessions that will push personal development, helping students reach their greatest potential.
  • Participate in team games and personal fitness activities.
  • Connect with other first-year students and key support staff at the college.
  • Receive guidance on financial aid and student and life resources available at TCC.
  • Learn creatively in academic strengthening workshops.
  • Train on how to navigate campus systems.

The Summer Bridge program is also serving students who have elected not to attend college. Students who plan to enter the workforce will be part of the “Bossing Up Academy” with an emphasis on teaching entrepreneurship in their chosen trade. At the conclusion of the two-week program, students will be given the opportunity to learn more by pursuing a Career Studies Certificate in Entrepreneurship at TCC.

And while these programs are designed for recent high school graduates from Norfolk and Portsmouth Public Schools, all are welcome to apply to attend. Contact Khadijah Peak-Brown on Norfolk Campus by emailing or calling 757-822-1199. On Portsmouth Campus, reach out to Jabari Colon at or by calling 757-822-2413.

“I definitely got my money’s worth at TCC.” – Student Speaker Jacob Ramirez

Jacob Ramirez found his career path in computer engineering at Tidewater Community College.

A 2021 graduate of Salem High School, Jacob wanted to stay close to home for college. He enrolled at TCC’s Virginia Beach Campus to study engineering. While there, he took computer engineering classes and found his purpose.

“I thought I was going to be a music person. That changed when I was able to fix a hinge on a shower door at my house. That’s what got me thinking about engineering and then it all came together at TCC,” he said.

This May, Jacob, 21, is earning an Associate of Science in Engineering. Jacob is the Speaker for the Graduates and will share his story during the 76th Commencement Exercises on May 8.

While at TCC Jacob participated in the STEM and Engineering Clubs. He also competed in the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Robotics competition with a team from TCC that took third place nationwide. Those experiences helped him learn to work on a team and offered hands-on training for his chosen career field.

“I gained experience in designing and problem-solving and learned how to actually build something,” he said. “We do this in class, but the clubs and activities take it to a whole other level.”

Jacob expanded his learning at the college by including musical studies. He was part of TCC’s Jazz band and took several music classes. An experienced band member from Salem High, Jacob is proud to become a member of the Virginia Tech marching band next fall.

“There’s a lot of learning to be done at TCC,” Jacob said. “I had the chance to interact with a diverse student body, making me more well-rounded as a student and a future computer engineer.”

A member of Phi Theta Kappa, the honor society for two-year schools, Jacob holds a perfect 4.0 GPA at TCC. “I enjoyed the people at TCC, the professors, the community. It was better than I could have imagined,” he said.

Jacob will transfer to Virginia Tech in the fall of 2023. He will be a junior in the computer engineering baccalaureate program.

A Virginia Beach native, Jacob gained lifelong friends at TCC, and three of them will attend Virginia Tech alongside him.

“I definitely got my money’s worth at TCC. But the best part is that I’m ready for the next steps,” Jacob said. “And I have a group of friends that are joining me on the journey. What could be better than that!”

From Russia to a good life in America

Katerina Diatlova came to the United States from Russia with a passport, suitcase and $80 in her pocket.

All of her life she was desperate for the American dream, watching endless episodes of “Hannah Montana” and “Gossip Girl.”

She was part of the International Exchange Visitors Program initially, but the dream faded when the opportunities were out of reach.

“My family was 10,000 miles away. I had no friends, no car, no prospects of a good job,” she said. “I tried to fill the loneliness by partying, going hard and staying up all night. When I was making poor life choices there were people all around me. But I still felt lonely and worse about myself because of my choices.”

In addition, Katerina, 28, was in a dead-end service job and saw no way to a better life. Looking back, she says that she lost her sense of purpose. And she’d almost lost all hope.

But that all changed the day she walked into the admissions office at Tidewater Community College’s Norfolk Campus and a kind staffer helped her fill out an application and enroll in classes.

“That was the day that my whole life turned around. I don’t remember that woman’s name, but she believed in me, making it possible for me to go in a new direction. I know she was just doing her job, but I’m very grateful.”

Katerina started studying Business Administration but switched gears and pursued a degree in web development. This May she is one of the thousands of TCC graduates earning degrees and certificates during Commencement on May 8.

“While taking classes at TCC, the professors showed me the way to live. They were good examples and gave me direction without really knowing it. I just emulated their lives,” Katerina said.

Katerina earned a perfect 4.0 GPA at TCC and was part of Phi Theta Kappa, the honor society for two-year schools.

“Years ago, I was not a good student and now I understand why. I wasn’t drawn to any subject. But when I found web development and coding, it was like learning a new, fascinating language and I was hooked.”

Katerina says she owes much of her success to her professors. “All of my teachers were willing to go out of their way to help. They made sure I was keeping up with the concepts. My interactions with them was my favorite part of the journey,” she said.

Katerina sends a shout-out to Professors Cesar Barbieri, Christopher Boyle, Gary Noah and Jared Oliverio for their patience, kindness and for sharing their passion for the subjects they teach.

While at TCC, Katerina was a volunteer for Computers for Student Success. She learned how to build computers and salvage parts. “This program is a win-win for students. Nothing is wasted. Those who need computers get them, and computer students learn and advance their skills.”

Katerina plans to be a software developer and would like to create and maintain websites. She is currently building her portfolio.

She is newly married to Matthew Thompson and has a community of friends that have become like family.

“People underestimate community college, but I know it’s a place to make your dreams happen,” Katerina said. “Words can’t really describe what TCC has provided. For me it was absolutely life changing.”

TCC grad earns degree one year after diploma

Rachael Kay Fitzgerald has big plans for a future in politics.

“I’ve always loved reading and writing. But when I learned about our government, I was hooked and knew I’d one day work in politics,” she said.

Rachael Kay was an early 2022 graduate of Nansemond River High School. At 17, she started at Tidewater Community College in the Accelerated Degree Program (ADP).

“The last few years of high school were tough with the pandemic and virtual learning,” Rachael Kay said. “I came to TCC to knock out a degree. But what I found was a new excitement for learning.”

Rachael Kay will earn an Associate of Science in Social Sciences in June 2023, just one year after earning a high school diploma.

“I’ve loved my time at TCC. The faculty, staff and advisors are so friendly, and they really push you to more opportunities to help you get where you want to be in life,” she said. “I’ve made so many connections with people. I’m beyond grateful I started here.”

The ADP gives students the opportunity to earn a degree in one year, saving thousands by completing the first two years of college at TCC. ADP students receive personalized attention with low student-to-faculty ratios and regular academic advising.

 “When I started at TCC, I was overwhelmed and a little sad. All of my friends were still in high school, so it was a lonely time,” Rachael Kay said. “I started praying to God and asking for help and that’s what kept me. He opened doors and made a way for me to do this.”

While at TCC, Rachael Kay’s favorite professor was Lara Tedrow, who teaches psychology. “Dr. Tedrow was so amazing, and we had some really good conversations. She made me love psychology even more,” she said.

Rachael Kay plans to transfer to Christopher Newport University to study psychology and political science. From there, she has her sights set on William and Mary Law School and a career in criminal defense or corporate law before jumping into politics. She hopes to make a difference for many.

“Whenever you feel like quitting, don’t do it. Just remember what you are fighting for. For me, I’m fighting for a law degree and a future political career,” she said. “Even though it’s years down the line, that keeps me going.”

Learn about everything TCC offers at two open houses, April 27 and June 3

Find your future at Tidewater Community College.

Learn about TCC’s programs, including information technology, engineering, culinary arts, health sciences, maritime technologies and the many other potential career paths and transfer opportunities the college offers.

Take the next step by visiting one of TCC’s open houses on April 27 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and June 3 and from 9 a.m. to noon.

On April 27, visit TCC’s Virginia Beach or Portsmouth Campuses.

On June 3, visit the Norfolk Campus or Chesapeake Campuses.

Registration is not required, but recommended and can be done by visiting here.

Visit our website for a complete listing of programs. There is plenty of time to enroll for fall classes, which begin on Aug. 21.

All are invited, especially:

  • 2023 high school graduates and their families;
  • adults who want to start or finish a degree, learn a new field, or advance in their careers;
  • active-duty military and veterans, their spouses and dependents.

You will be able to apply to TCC; learn about financial aid, grants and scholarships; explore academic options; tour campuses; and learn about campus life at all locations.

If you have an eye on a four-year college, TCC can help get you there, too. Transfer agreements allow a student to complete the first two years of a bachelor’s degree at TCC and gain guaranteed admission to most Virginia colleges and universities.

Locations for TCC’s open houses are:

  • Chesapeake Campus: Student Center
  • Norfolk Campus: Student Center
  • Portsmouth Campus: Building A
  • Virginia Beach Campus: Bayside Building

Accommodation requests related to a disability should be made to the Office of Educational Accessibility by emailing or calling 757-822-7751.

For more information, call 757-822-1111 or email or visit this site.

TCC receives a $50,000 grant from Truist Foundation for workforce career planning 

Tidewater Community College received a $50,000 grant from Truist Foundation for workforce career planning.  

The grant will be used to provide workshops on career readiness for low- to moderate-income individuals so they can build the skills necessary to obtain positions to support their families with full-time, quality work. 

TCC’s Center for Workforce Solutions will provide the training and partner with local employers and community stakeholders to connect disadvantaged workers with these programs. 

“We are grateful to Truist Foundation for this grant as it will greatly impact families in our region,” said TCC President Marcia Conston. “We are unwavering in our commitment to helping individuals reskill and upskill so they can provide for their families and give back to the community.” 

Truist Foundation is committed to creating sustainable wealth-building opportunities for historically excluded people that can impact future generations.  

TCC President Conston and former board member Delceno C. Miles during the Truist donation event.
TCC President Marcia Conston with Truist Senior Vice President Mark Johnson and Delceno Miles, chair of TCC’s Educational Foundation.

“To build and prepare our state’s future workforce, it’s critical that we provide individuals with opportunities to be introduced to and prepare for career paths by reducing financial barriers,” said Thomas Ransom, Virginia regional president for Truist. “Our partnership with Tidewater Community College to provide workforce planning workshops illustrates our purpose to inspire and build better lives and communities, and we are proud to help create positive change.” 

Truist Financial Corporation has a history of supporting TCC and provided a $75,000 grant to the college in 2019. Those funds also supported workforce development. 

TCC students take first place in cyber competition

Tidewater Community College cyber security students took first place in the 2023 Cyber Fusion competition in the Community College Division.

Cyber Fusion 2023, hosted by Virginia Military Institute, welcomed representatives from institutions of higher education from across the Commonwealth of Virginia.

About 150 students and 30 faculty advisors attended. The annual invitation-only event, co-sponsored by the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative and Virginia Cyber Range, is open to Virginia colleges that are designated National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense.

The two-day event included a job fair, speakers and a capture-the-flag cyber competition.

A total of six TCC students participated in the competition, under the direction of faculty advisors John McGill and Joel Kirch. The team tackled problems in scenarios designed to model real-world computer security challenges across a range of categories including cryptography, network traffic analysis, reverse engineering, steganography and more. Two student observers were also present at the event.

The Virginia Cyber Cup capture-the-flag (CTF) competition is a jeopardy-style CTF in which teams solve individual challenges of various point values across different categories to score points. The team with the highest point total at the end of the competition is the winner. 

Dean Debra Dart (center) with TCC students and instructor John McGill.

“The competition is designed to both test skills and teach concepts,” said TCC Dean Debra Dart. “These activities are very important for our students’ training and help to develop a sustainable pipeline of capable talent, and industry-read workers to meet the increasing demand for cyber security engineers.”

Tidewater Community College took the top spot in the community college division, with Laurel Ridge Community College taking second place and Virginia Western Community College in third. The University of Virginia was the overall winner and received the Commonwealth Cyber Fusion Cup. The four-year college division winners are University of Virginia in first, Liberty University finishing second, and George Mason University in third.

From TCC to the State Capitol

By now, most people know that Winsome Earle-Sears is the first woman, and the first woman of color, to serve as Virginia’s Lieutenant Governor. But you may not know that she got her start in higher education at Tidewater Community College.

On May 8, Lt. Gov. Earle-Sears will be the speaker for TCC’s 76th Commencement Exercises at Chartway Arena in the Ted Constant Convocation Center on the campus of Old Dominion University. 

She will share a message of encouragement with students, as she knows what it’s like to walk in their shoes. “I think it’s so awesome that I get to do this,” Earle-Sears said. “It’s not something I ever thought I’d be able to do when I came to TCC trying to get my life straight.”

Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears at her inauguration with husband Terence Sears.

Sears, 59, was born in Jamaica and came to the United States with her family when she was six. “My father had $1.75 in his pocket and arrived during the height of the civil rights movement, just days before Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘I have a dream speech.’”

She added, “Growing up I had no excuse not to succeed. Education was what brought my father success and it will lift all boats.”

At 18, Earle-Sears was working as an electrician in the United States Marines. After four years of service, she left the military and married Terence Sears, a Marine officer. Earle-Sears was in her mid-twenties and a young mother of three children, all under the age of five, when she started at TCC.

Winsome Earle-Sears in her Marine uniform.
Winsome Earle when she was in the Marines.

“I remember my first English professor who was old school. She had us diagramming sentences and rewriting paragraphs,” Earle-Sears recalled. “She refused any typed papers, and we hated having to write the same paper twice. But that work taught us to understand the process of writing a paper. It was only later that we thanked her for being so no-nonsense. She would accept nothing but greatness.”

On starting at a community college, Earle-Sears says there were many things that made the experience valuable. “The small classes and affordability were helpful. And the quality of the education was not diminished because the same professors at TCC also taught at the four-year institutions,” Earle-Sears said. “TCC was a godsend for me, having been out of school for eight years. I had to brush up my skills and the administrators and professors showed such patience and encouraged returning students not to think we were less than others.”

Earle-Sears received an Associate of Arts in Liberal Arts from TCC in 1992. She continued her studies earning a bachelor’s from Old Dominion University in English and a master’s in organizational leadership from Regent University.

The newly elected Lt. Governor of Virginia.

On her time at TCC, Earle-Sears says she carries important lessons with her. “It’s not one thing, but the whole experience of being back in college with professors who understood you didn’t just graduate from high school, and you were quite rusty. They knew they would have to take a little bit more time with you and do a little bit more hand-holding. All while knowing that we were more like them in their current stage of life, and not a child coming into adulthood.”

She added, “You didn’t have anything to prove – except to yourself that you could do it.”

Earle-Sears doesn’t consider herself a trailblazer, but she does admire trailblazing women from the past. Specifically, her grandmother, who spent time serving the poor, the homeless and anyone in need. Also, Margaret Thatcher with her no-nonsense approach. And lastly, Nanny of the Maroons, the Jamaican who led African slaves to revolt against the British. Nanny became a symbol of unity and strength for her people during times of crisis.

Earle-Sears with her family.

As Lieutenant Governor, Earle-Sears presides over the Senate and is a member of several other state boards, commissions and councils. A former program manager for the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce and VISTA volunteer, Earle-Sears is a trained electrician and successful businesswoman. She is most proud of her community work of leading a men’s prison ministry and as director of a women’s homeless shelter.

During Commencement Earle-Sears will commend graduates on making the decision to start. “These graduates have made the best decision to start their lives. They are no longer wondering about the ‘what ifs.’”

She continued, “Don’t ever think that there was a time when things were easier. Times are relative. For some people, things have been historically easier, but where we are today shows we are overcomers. We must move forward for the sake of our children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews. We must move forward; we must forgive, and we must strive.”

A lifetime of service to students and leaders

When Karen Campbell, Ph.D., was working on her bachelor’s at the University of Richmond, a mentor there suggested she look at higher education as a place where she could make a difference.

Campbell took that advice to heart and has spent 30 years helping students find their paths to success.

After working in area universities for more than a decade, Campbell joined TCC in 2005 as a Career Coach in area high schools. In that role, she directly supported students beginning their higher education journeys.

Campbell with high school students.

Over the years, Campbell has served in various leadership positions before being selected to the top spot for student services. She currently serves as vice president for student affairs and provides college-wide leadership for admissions, recruitment, registration, advising, education accessibility, student success, student activities, career services and more.

“I enjoy what I do every day,” Campbell said. “It’s rewarding to provide support for those who come through our doors as they prepare for the work they want to pursue.”

In her free time, Campbell also serves as state chair of the American Council on Education’s Women’s Virginia Network. The mission of the group is to identify, develop, advance, and support women in higher education.

“We all give our time to make sure women in Virginia have the skills and confidence to go to the next level if they choose to do so,” Campbell said.

 “We encourage women to consider positions out of their comfort zone and to also look at their skills through a different lens,” she added. “Ultimately, we encourage, engage and provide a network to help women leaders advance to the positions they seek.”

For those who may be considering careers in higher education in the future, Campbell says it is still a great place to make your mark while making a difference for others.

“I want everyone to know that higher education is a place you can learn and grow as a professional. It’s also a place where you can help other learners understand who they are and create confidence to build the leaders of the future.”

In her free time, Campbell enjoys traveling to experience different cultures and to learn people’s stories.  So far she has visited 25 countries and territories.

“I’m very grateful to be earning my degree debt free.” – Paige Russell

Paige Russell discovered her passion for interior design while a student at Tidewater Community College.

She originally planned to study social sciences for a career in mental health counseling. But one semester in and she knew the field wasn’t a good fit for her.

“TCC gave me the chance to explore programs and I didn’t feel like I was wasting time and money. Once I found interior design, it was a game changer,” Paige said. “I enjoy it so much it doesn’t feel like work.”

A recent graduate of Great Bridge High, Paige is on track to earn her Associate of Applied Science in Interior Design in the spring of 2024.

Paige Russell in the Interior Design spaces on Chesapeake Campus.

“I love everything about this program. All of my teachers are great and have industry experience. They create classrooms that are really inviting and are always there to answer questions,” Paige said.

Paige followed her sister, Hailee, to TCC. They both are Outstanding High School Graduate Scholars, earning full scholarships to the college a decade apart.

“TCC was always on my radar because of my sister,” Paige said. “I knew I could complete my gen eds. What I didn’t know was how much I’d enjoy the community and the small classes.”

As an Outstanding High School Graduate Scholar, Paige also serves as a Student Ambassador on the Chesapeake Campus. In that role, she gives campus tours, serves at events and volunteers in the student center.

“I encourage everyone to try for this scholarship,” she said. “The work has helped me come out of my shell and grow. It’s been a tremendous learning experience and I’ve made a lot of friends.”

Paige also credits TCC staffers Sara Hair and Tyler Flanagan with investing in her success. “They always have their doors open and are there to provide guidance. It’s a big family here,” Paige said.

An intern at a local design company, Paige is learning the ropes from professionals in the field. She plans a career as a residential and commercial interior designer.

“I’m actually going to be job ready with my associate degree,” Paige said. “I’m very grateful to be earning my degree debt free.”

Now is the time to apply for the Outstanding High School Graduate Scholarship. High School seniors can ask their guidance counselors about the program. The deadline to apply is April 7. For more information, visit here.

TCC staffer shines at national conference

Tidewater Community College Coordinator Khadijah Peak-Brown is part of the Emerging Leaders for NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising.

Peak-Brown recently presented at NACADA’s (National Academic Advising Association) national convention held in Portland, Oregon. She facilitated two workshops, one on “Understanding Double Consciousness: The Path to True Inclusive Advising.” The other was on “Academic Efficacy: The Great Equalizer.”

“Presenting these specific topics successfully means that I conquered a fear that could have hindered me from doing meaningful student advocacy work,” Peak-Brown said. “Though the students I serve affectionally referred to me as their bodyguard, I recognized that I was nervous to openly share my thoughts on how race, racism, and colonialism impact education. Moreover, I was hesitant to advocate for changes that support efficacy-building practices for our students. I’m grateful that NACADA provided me with the opportunity to present on two topics that challenge administrations to alter their policies and procedures.”

Peak-Brown also serves on the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) committee for NACADA. In this role she helps evaluate DEI training across the association. This in turn helps to support programming efforts within their divisions, communities and regions.

“Being selected to help support and provide my input regarding DEI initiatives for NACADA is an honor. I am thankful they believe in my ability and passion for this work to allow me to help train and develop programming for faculty and academic advisors,” Peak-Brown said 

Norfolk Public School students at the Excellence Institute on Norfolk Campus last summer.

Peak-Brown serves as TCC’s Connect2TCC coordinator. She develops a summer program for Norfolk Public School high school seniors called the Excellence Institute. Students engage in activities that build their academic and professional efficacy and, in turn, increase their persistence in their higher education pursuits.

For more information about the 2023 Excellence Institute, reach out to Peak-Brown at

TCC biz whiz captures second place in global competition

Tidewater Community College Funeral Services student Jaden Fowlkes took second place in an entrepreneur competition held at the Virginia Beach Campus on Jan. 21.

He was one of six Virginia student entrepreneurs who presented their businesses in a shark-tank style competition for the ultimate prize of up to $50,000.

All six students started a business while in college and competed in the Entrepreneurs’ Organization’s Global Student Entrepreneur Awards. They pitched ideas to a panel of judges, with ideas ranging technology, board games and real-estate.

Jaden with his parents Jeff and Tonya McDowell.

“The event was amazing, even life-changing,” Jaden said. “It made it easier to see the value of my business and boosted my resolve of helping funeral homes better serve their families with technology.”

Jaden, 19, learned the ropes of the funeral services business as a teenager working for Fitchett-Mann Funeral Services in South Norfolk.

Today, he has his own business, J. Fowlkes Consulting, and provides branding, marketing and access to needed technology for funeral homes.

“I’m working to pull funeral homes into the 21st Century by connecting them with live streaming; cyber security and database management; funeral home administration; and website and social media support,” Jaden said. “I want them to have access to the best technology at a fair price so they can meet the needs of their clients.”

The Grassfield High graduate plans a career in the field and is pursuing an Associate of Applied Science in Funeral Services which he will complete in 2024.

Jaden credits Dean Nancy Prather-Johnson with helping him on his journey and being a mentor and one of his biggest supporters. “She has been a lifesaver and connected me with so many opportunities, including this one!”

Two other TCC students were recognized during the competition including Maria Arely Jimenez who earned 4th place and Lexus Ashley Lee for 6th place.

Winners received certificates, mentorship and investment opportunities. Virginia Commonwealth University student Jack Phillip Oppenheim was the 1st place winner. He will compete in the final competition that will be held in Africa.

For more information about TCC business programs and opportunities, contact Prather-Johnson at